Fuck This.

Posted: July 19, 2010 in Blogging, Freedom of Speech

I used to have a thing for Fuck Theory

Fuck Theory is a very niftly little blog, that comments on philosophy, academic theories of gender and sexuality, and popular culture, with the use of photos of aphorisms written on index cards. It’s the kind of thing you’d either love or be completely indifferent to. I loved it. Ticked all my intellectual/aesthetic/anti-Theory-with-a-capital-T  boxes.

I started to comment on the site. I engaged in conversation with the author of Fuck Theory. Turned out he is a philosophy lecturer in New York, a gay man who likes to bring issues of gender and sexuality to his students, via philosophical theory, and references to popular culture. He likes gay porn as well, but I don’t think he shows that to his class.

It was all going well. I flattered him on the concept of the site, and his grasp of queer theory, and Derrida. He accepted my compliments and ignored my suggestions of further reading. I looked at his gay porn links and got the horn.  I pimped his blog to others.

Then things started to go wrong. First big faux pas on fuck theory’s part: he slagged off Mark Simpson, ‘daddy of the metrosexual’, ‘spawner of sporno’,  a man who I respect immensely on all sorts of levels. He based his critique on the fact he’d read one article  in the 1990s, and seemed a little bit jealous of the credit Simpson has received for his genuinely original and influential ideas about gay culture and masculinity. Oh well. I bet Mark is used to bitter queens, being bitter.

Also, I started to notice a certain disdain by Mr Fuck Theory for his students. He took the piss out of an art student and called him an ‘art fag’, saying he didn’t know what he was talking about, and should not pretend to be Professor Fuck Theory’s intellectual equal. I have met too many arrogant lecturers to be impressed by that. What a boring thing to use your blog to do.

The final straw came when he posted a piece about Luce Iragaray , and her theories of sexual difference. I responded by discussing Judith Butler , and my belief that gender is something we do, not something we are. I also suggested he was misrepresenting Iragay’s stance on ‘essentialism’. Fuck Theory was so rattled he produced two more posts, challenging ‘Butlerists’ (me?)  and the fact they obviously knew little of philosophy, and should really listen to the experts. I responded, enjoying engaging in such a debate about a subject that is dear to my heart, that I studied as part of my PhD. I thought hey, me and Fuck Theory are really starting to connect here.

Suddenly  he closed down all the comments on the original post where I’d challenged him. You can’t see them. I think he thought he’d been pwned, and didn’t want to lose face.

I would not report on this, except it is happening to me on a daily basis at the moment. If I challenge someone , especially in the context of a political or academic-related blog, I get blocked, expected to be quiet. Told to  ‘go away’.

I am getting a bit worried about what this approach says about our understanding of the meaning of ‘debate’ currently, and our commitment to openness and ‘freedom’ on the internet at the very least. I have a nasty feeling about this, that is nothing to do with me, or Fuck Theory, or Cruella, or anyone else that has told me to shut up recently.

It’s a sense that dissent and debate are just not cool. In a world where the channels for discussion have never been more numerous or more accessible, those that need to retain their positions of power within discourse are doing everything they can to make damn sure that they do. By whatever means necessary.

It reminds me of this.

Comments
  1. Dave Weeden says:

    It sounds like he was pwned, which happens. Since you say you keep doing this, perhaps you should use http://www.freezepage.com/ to catch them before they hide comments. Otherwise, can’t help.

  2. Haha I could do. But Id have to do it every time I leave a comment, because these are blogs where I really thought I was allowed to state my views. I never dreamed I’d get blocked by FuckTheory. I can’t be bothered to save the evidence. The overall effect is speaking loud and clear to me.

  3. Kimboosan says:

    I have thought about this kind of fuckery, which I totally think is fuckery, because on one side I do think a blogger has the right to limit discussion as they see fit in their own blog. That is their personal space. BUT…where does that leave free discourse? At the whim of every blogger’s knee-jerk reaction? So he got pwned; he should be mature enough to deal with it. But no, he shuts you down instead.

    Now I’m trying to think of where the free discourse is and it isn’t anywhere, really. Most news media are owned by corporations that mandate content, directly or indirectly. Personal blogs are the opposite side of that coin. I’m not sure if free discourse isn’t but a fairy tale anyway, because where has it ever existed in the past? Magazines, ‘zines, universities, think tanks…where? Are we looking for something that has never really existed? Online, right now: where is it? I don’t know. *sad little puppy am I*

    As for FuckTheory, it’s a shame when someone’s ego gets in the way. The big clue was down-talking his students though….that guy should NOT be teacher. Bah.

  4. Thanks Kim
    You make some brilliant points, as usual. I agree it is idealistic to think we ever had ‘free speech’! But I guess constraints of freedom changes in form if not in content over the years.

    Yes when he spoke dismissively of students alarm bells rang in my head! I know teachers need an outlet but his style was particularly derogatory.

  5. arctic_jay says:

    Free speech refers to the right to speak without the threat of punitive measures applied by an authoritative force, not the right to speak in any and all platforms.

    Someone deleting blog comments is not opposing free speech; it’s essentially an extension of property rights. WordPress can dictate the guidelines of their site which in this case means users can delete comments at will. Dave gives the best advise. If you’re arguing something important on someone else’s blog, save it.

    Out of curiosity, what were the positions taken by you and Fuck Theory on Irigaray’s theory of essentialism?

  6. arctic_jay says:

    More specifically, are you object to the assumption that Irigaray believes that humans can be further categorized and male and female by the properties of their genitalia, or that she concludes that the morphology of genitalia necessitates complementariness and reliance between the sexes?

  7. arctic_jay says:

    Gah.

    “object*ing* to the assumption”
    “categorized *as* male”

  8. arctic jay that’s the whole point. The discussion was in the context of fucktheory’s specific post on Iragaray. It was a discussion between me and him (or so I thought) and his other readers. No point me trawling out my arguments and having them with you, just for the sake of it! I will revisit her work but not just to have an argument on my blog.

    I know what you mean about free speech I was alluding to something more general going on in society not just on his blog. As Kim said though, this guy is a teacher, so he does have some power within ‘discourse’ especially with his students.

  9. rob says:

    I suspect that this is a matter of little Hitler syndrome. “The blog is my stamping ground, so as long as the comments are supportive or at least unquestioning of my work, then they are okay. Dare to challenge me…” Give some people even a tiny bit of power – in this case to censor comments – and they abuse it.

    It’s something most people have come across in other contexts: the post office clerk who won’t let you post an urgent letter in the evening’s mail as it’s fifteen seconds past the cut-off time; the election official who won’t let you vote because of a slightly misspelt name on the roll.

    The bigger issue here IMHO is that this fellow is an academic. What kind of a message is “tell me how wonderful I am or you’ll fail my course” sending to students??

  10. hi Rob
    I agree. I am not happy with how he uses his anonymity online to talk down to students, albeit indirectly. Some of them could read his posts and see themselves. I’d not try and curtail HIS right to expression, but yes, I don’t think it says much about his qualities as a teacher either. Or as the great philosopher he seems to think he is! But that is me using my blog to bitch about him!

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